For a moment, when he heard the cries from his daughter’s room, he smiled, forgetting that she had died almost five years ago.
With any luck, that sentence intrigues you. It’s meant to catch your attention. The first line of any story should do this. But it’s more than that.
The first line of your story, especially if it’s captivating, is a promise. You tell your reader from the get go that something isn’t quiet right here. That something exciting is going to happen. And if you don’t deliver on it, then the reader won’t trust you. Even worse, they may get frustrated or bored and quit reading.
The beginning of a story requires balance. You have to grab their attention, but you also have to make them care. If you just rush into the action without building any rapport with the characters, the reader might be entertained, but they won’t be invested. Might. They need to connect with your protagonist. You have to make their fight/challenge/loss/victory also theirs. And so it’s a dance. Hook them and draw them in.
Then it’s time to deliver on the promise that you made. Try not to make them wait too long. If you do, make sure it was worth it. End the scene strong. Possibly dangle a hook for the next chapter to keep them going. If it works, then you caught yourself a reader.